MDA banning photos of freedom fighters from arts fest

From ‘Photos cut from show’, 24 June 2016, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh, ST

When Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian’s exhibition I Know Why The Rebel Sings opened on Wednesday night, black cards took the place of 15 photographs depicting Kurdish female soldiers who had joined the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Media Development Authority (MDA) had asked that these photographs be removed before a licence could be given for the exhibition, which is part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts’ pre- festival programme, The O.P.E.N.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MDA said the festival team had submitted about 150 of Newsha’s photos for the exhibition. “These included photographs of members from a terrorist-linked organisation, who had committed acts of violence to further their cause, for example suicide bombing.”

MDA asked that these photographs be removed from the show. “Singapore takes a firm stand against extremism and will not allow photographs that undermine public order, national security and/ or stability to be displayed,” it said.

It did not name the organisation, but the women in the photographs removed from the exhibition are part of the YPJ, an all-woman offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in south-east Turkey.

Dear MDA,

I was browsing around at the local library and found this book featuring a photo of an extremist on the front cover. I’m concerned that this may undermine public order and influence readers into strapping bombs to themselves and killing Singaporeans. Please do the necessary. NLB, surely if you could pull out a book on gay penguins you would do the same for this too.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 7.39.49 PM

Dear MDA,

I was shocked and disturbed to find portraits of radicalised Bangladeshis on the MHA website. Please ask your fellow stat board to take down these photos immediately. They are seriously undermining public order. After my kid saw their faces, he insisited on bringing his water pistol to class everyday since.

https://www.mha.gov.sg/Newsroom/press-releases/PublishingImages/Pages/Arrests-of-27-Radicalised-Bangladeshi-Nationals-under-the-Internal-Security-Act-/Photographs%20of%20Bangladeshi%20Nationals%20arrested%20under%20the%20Internal%20Security%20Act.pdf

 Dear MDA,

What is the meaning of this? How did you even let this poster by the Police slip by without mosaicing the said terrorist’s face?

Dear MDA,

Please take action against the Straits Times. Although nobody has seen the face of the Chinese Singaporean taking up arms against Syria named Wang Yuandongyi, an editorial on which his capture was based on (April 2 2016) featured a photo of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during training, which clearly glamorises terrorist-linked violence. I enclose the artistically-taken photo and offending page herein as evidence. Do you want more brainwashed citizens to take up this extremist cause because of the ST’s inexcusable undermining of our national security?

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 10.11.19 PM

Dear MDA,

Thanks to your decisive action and making your censorship newsworthy, I googled ‘I Know When the Rebel Sings‘ and found the uncensored version online. Now I know which sites to block in case my children stumble upon this image and get hypnotised into joining a foreign rebel army.

img_9092-768x576

Now you see me

The Singapore version:

st_20160624_nanewsha24k6ij_2390905

Foreign entities banned from sponsoring ‘sensitive’ events

From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum

(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.

LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.

Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn.  Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.

And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.

The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?

MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.

MDA censoring two men kissing in Les Miserables

From ‘Same-sex kiss cut from Singapore staging of Les Miserables’, 11 June 2016, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

A kissing scene between two male performers has been removed from the staging of Les Miserables after complaints from the public. The Media Development Authority (MDA) confirmed that action was taken upon “receiving feedback from members of the public”.

The show, now on at the Esplanade, was given a ‘General’ rating as the same-sex kiss was not highlighted in the script when it was submitted for classification, MDA said. The Straits Times understands that kiss did not appear in performances from June 3.

The scene involved a brief peck during the song Beggars at the Feast. It was not in many other productions of the long-running classic. MDA said it reviewed the performance after receiving feedback from members of the public.

After being advised that the scene exceeded its ‘General’ rating, the producers decided to remove it, MDA said. Earlier, Facebook user Alvin Ng posted in a Facebook group that he wrote to MDA to complain about the scene.

He wrote in a June 1 post that he saw the kiss in the second last scene during the opening performance of Les Miserables.

“This was never in the original production but now it’s been included here,” Mr Ng pointed out. He also appealed for others to lodge complaints too, if they saw the scene in other Les Miserables performances. On June 10, he posted that MDA has liaised with the producers of the show to remove the scene.

Do you hear the people complain?

The Facebook group in question is ‘We are Against Pink Dot Singapore’, and the exact words used by Alvin Ng was ‘gay kiss’. Though the play is set around 1832, I’m pretty sure ‘gay’ isn’t used here in the same context as ‘happy’. Also, clearly we’re not comfortable with people pushing boundaries. Sometimes we cut them off completely, like the boundary between Government email and the Internet. Am I right, IDA?

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Maybe MDA should ban the entire Beggars at the Feast song too, for it contains some lyrics that would offend morality ‘watchmen’ (as some commenters have praised) like Alvin Ng, such as:

Here comes a prince/There goes a Jew/This one’s a QUEER/But what can you do

It also contains the words ‘buggers’ and ‘blowing’. Yep. Just ban it, MDA, and while you’re at it, you could collaborate with IDA to ban the segment videos from Youtube too. After all, you stopped Ah Mei from singing a song about rainbows.

Personally not a fan of Les Miz, though I did catch the film version starring Borat, Wolverine and Catwoman, but there was no hint of homoeroticism in there at all, just a lot of shouty chest-thumping singing and people raising muskets. Wait a minute, isn’t this whole French revolution thing about ‘pushing boundaries’?

MDA did not elaborate on the context of the ‘brief peck’, whether it was on the lips, forehead or on the cheeks, but label it as a ‘same-sex kiss’ and it becomes grossly distorted from something cheeky, even ‘bromantic’, to a full-blown pro-family, anti-LGBT, pink-dotty issue likely to rile both camps into another futile war. There was also a controversial, impromptu ‘same-sex’ kiss between two actresses during a Star Awards some years back. Not sure if Alvin Ng was complaining then. Those two ladies still have their jobs, and I don’t see the Star Awards producers making sure that men only sit next to women to minimise the risk of any gay kissing whatsoever.

The whole point of a ‘General’ rating then, is that the show is suitable for children, though I don’t see how Les Miz would appeal to young impressionable minds.  What MDA, and the anti-Pink Dot people, should be worried about, really, is same-sex gratuitousness in CARTOONS.

Spongebob kisses Squidward on his nob. DISGUSTING.

Tom and Jerry same-sex slow dancing? UNACCEPTABLE

Who would have thought Bugs Bunny would be a serial sex-sex kisser as well. JUST LOOK AT THIS WASCALLY WABBIT DOING QUEER SHIT!

Smooching Yosemite Sam

Marrying Elmer Fudd. Oh the humanity!

Perhaps in their next run the Les Miz producers should not only ensure they comply with the licensing conditions by removing suggestively gay scenes, or better still rename their play to ‘Miserables’ without the suggestive ‘Les’ in it too. You can push your boundaries elsewhere.

Gahmen banning Interwebs from public servants’ computers

 

From ‘Public servants won’t have Internet access on their work computers by next May’, 8 June 2016, article in Today

Civil servants will not be able to access the Internet from their work computers from next year, following an “extensive review” by the Government to reduce the prospects of its data being compromised or stolen by cyber attackers.

News of the new policy, first reported by The Straits Times, was confirmed by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) on Wednesday (June 8). In response to queries from TODAY, an IDA spokesman said a trial has been underway to “separate Internet access from the work stations of a selected group of public service officers”. The new policy will be rolled out to “the rest of the public service officers progressively over a one-year period”, the IDA spokesman added without giving details.

TODAY understands that the restrictions would be in place by May 2017. A memo that has been sent to some civil servants warned: “With the number of cyber-security threats on the rise, being attacked is a given….As long as the Government networks are connected to the Internet, the risks of Government data being stolen and leaked will be heightened.”

The new rules, however, do not mean an outright ban on Internet access during work hours for civil servants. “There are alternatives for Internet access and the work that officers need to do, does not change,” the IDA said without elaboration. TODAY understands that public servants can still access the Internet at work using mobile devices. Intranet access will also be available.

What the Phish.

The decision to sever Internet access from public servants’ workstations threatens not just the productivity of officers but ultimately affects the public who depend on their services as well. It’s puzzling that the IDA is pushing out such extreme measures to protect Government data but organisations from the private sector such as banking which have tight regulations on personal data protection are spared of the blanket ban. It’s OK for a hacker to wipe out your life savings but not the Government’s intimate secrets.

Contrary to some commentators’ opinions that the Internet is for civil servants to surf entertainment sites like Youtube during their breaks, public officers have become increasingly dependent on the Internet for their work in this knowledge-based economy. There is no shame is googling for information and nobody expects our civil servants to prod about in the National Archives looking for statistics to substantiate one sentence in a policy paper, like how many impoverished souls in Singapore lack access to wireless broadband.

IDA clarified that officers can still use mobile devices at work, but that’s like having one watch to tell time and another to use as an alarm. It’s inefficient, resource-heavy, and not sustainable tech at all. Despite such clunky efforts to ensure that the frogs in the well have at least some access to the world out there, given the sheer volume of Internet-dependent work, the actual impact of these lifelines, particularly centralised terminals where staff have to take queue numbers to surf and download info, is equivalent to shining a torchlight out of an information black hole.

Now that officers can only access the web through their mobile devices, it also gives true malingerers all the more reason to play with their phones in the name of ‘research’. It also doesn’t stop disgruntled employees from taking snapshots of sensitive data and posting it on forums. The nanny state legacy lives on, civil servants are the Internet noobs, and the IDA is the Parental Lock of all parental locks. Everyone else is on the information superhighway, while our public service are muddling along in a horsecart on a dirt trail chewing on stalks of lallang like the bumpkins they’ll eventually become.

Such drastic measures in the name of cyber-security run counter to our country’s vision to be a ‘smart nation’ and innovation hub. In the eyes of other modern cities that face the same problems as us, imposing a massive firewall is reflective of rigid thinking, akin to throwing all our advances in connectivity back into the Stone Age of the Internet. It was a slow creep towards an eventual Internet blackout, from the regulation of news sites to the prosecution of The Real Singapore. The joke will be on us when despite all this clampdown on Government networks, someone still manages to hack into our electricity grid and bring the entire nation to its knees. The only consolation when that happens is that we can trust our civil service to still communicate without the web, using invisible ink, carrier pigeons, hiding ciphers in muffins, putting their ears to the ground and other archaic skills worthy of a World War hero that they’ve picked up while deprived of the hazards of technology. When the world goes to shit, our civil service, hardened by years of internet deprivation, will be there lighting our fires, armed with the Oxford dictionary and CD-ROMs of the Encyclopedia Britannica, teaching us how to write with stationery again.

Dear Internet, I’m sorry for complaining when the browser shuts down abruptly. I’m sorry for moaning when a page hangs seemingly for eternity. I’m sorry for all the table-banging when I get the blue screen of death after opening too many tabs. Come back, Internet. I will never again mishandle a LAN cable again.

Help our civil servants get their interwebs mojo back.

https://www.change.org/p/ludditus-return-my-internet?recruiter=553318556&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

 

 

 

All bicycles need to be regulated

From ‘All bicycles, not just electric ones, need to be regulated’, 26 Nov 2015, Voices, Today

(Alfred Lim): I support the suggestions in the letter “Greater regulation needed for electric bicycles, riders” (Nov 24). I would state further that every means of transport used on the roads, including regular bicycles, should be regulated. The growth in bicycle usage is unprecedented. Since the cost of motorcycle Certificates of Entitlement (COE) went up substantially, many have switched to bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise.

In land-scarce Singapore, car and motorcycle ownership is regulated in part by the COE system: There is a limit on the number allowed. Cars and motorcycles are required to be tested and insured, and are subject to ownership and usage laws. However, few regulations apply to bicycles, which were once few in number and hardly infringed on other road users’ rights. But this is no longer so. To be fair to all, the cost of bicycle usage cannot be zero or negligible.

Cyclists are not required to pass any test, which perhaps explains the unsafe behaviour seen regularly when they speed at pedestrian crossings, ignore the red light and disregard traffic laws. Being unregistered, they are rarely caught.

Bicycles require other road users to keep a safe distance; one occupies as much space on the roads as a motorcycle. They can cause accidents; hence, insurance is necessary.

Bicycles were once slow and cumbersome, but the new, lighter ones are capable of speeds nearing 50km an hour. Accidents could prove injurious to riders and other road users.

It is time to revisit the premise that we need not regulate bicycle ownership and usage. Accountability and regulation in this regard would be to the benefit and protection of all road users and pedestrians.

The call to issue licences to anyone who owns a bicycle is a case of backpedalling into the early 20th century, a time when bicycles were ‘slow and cumbersome’ and yet it was still dangerous to cycle one-handed while doffing your hat when a lady walks by.

In 1933, such measures were lauded as revenue-generating for the Government, in addition to deterring theft. Licensing did eventually come into play in 1936, with nearly 100,000 bikes being registered with the authority, and naturally, the Government took credit for  the subsequent reduction in traffic offences. I’m not sure if baby tricycles were spared, and whether it was your civic duty to report to the Police if you caught someone’s kid on an unauthorised vehicle blazing down the pavement without having to pass any sort of ‘test’ whatsoever.

In 1981, the Registry of Vehicles decided to scrap bicycle registration as they thought it was no longer sustainable to continue producing number plates and that it involved too much paperwork. The fee then was a measly $5. The very thought of applying for a licence for bicycle-riding today would turn many budding riders off, even if the fee is in the low double-digits. All this runs contrary to our vision of a cyclist-friendly nation. If roads do eventually appear to be safer following bicycle registration, it could merely mean that there are less cyclists on the streets, not because errant cyclists suddenly begin behaving more responsibly. You could register your killer pitbull with AVA, but if you don’t leash him in public there’s still the risk that it would bite someone’s face off.

Perhaps we should be thankful, for now, that the Government doesn’t already mandate bicycles to install ERP gantry readers. ‘To be fair to all’, as the writer suggests, maybe it’s not just cyclists who need to ‘pay’ for running riot on our streets. How about that oblivious jogger with earphones on, or those trolley-pushing cardboard collecting aunties? Or the uncle on a motorised wheelchair? Not every nail that sticks out needs to be hammered down.

The blunt instrument of regulation is not the answer to harmonious commuting. For cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to get around seamlessly requires creative rejigging of the current infrastructure given our space constraints. It requires smart policies coupled with enforcement, not slapping on another bureaucratic hoop that echoes the days when Mamasans rode around in trishaws.

NEA not providing the public with hourly PSI readings

From ‘Hourly PSI readings would allow for better decision-making’, 28 Sep 15, Voices, Today

(Tan Zhi Rui): Amid the annual haze, I would like to again strongly make the case for the National Environment Agency (NEA) to provide hourly Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings instead of three-hour averages.

Singapore is a small country and a slight shift in prevailing winds can cause sudden significant changes in air quality. With a three-hour-average PSI, lower PSI levels for the earlier two hours can lower the reading when the haze has already reached a hazardous level in the third hour.

The NEA’s FAQs on PSI webpage states that its health advisory is based on the 24-hour PSI as it is a “better reflection of the total exposure”, and health effects have been mostly studied based on this measure. In comparison, the three-hour PSI is only “an indicative measure” that the public may use “to make adjustments to their daily activities if they wish to do so”.

I understand that public health planning is more effectively done on a daily, 24-hour basis. However, logically and given a choice, most people would refer to a shorter time frame to avoid exposure to the worst hours of the haze.

While the use of three-hour averages may moderate PSI readings and prevent undue panic, it is irresponsible not to provide a more accurate hourly measure for Singaporeans to protect themselves, especially when the NEA has the data.

This is particularly incongruous given that the hourly PM2.5 readings are available on the NEA website, which are equally “highly variable when the wind drives smoke haze from place to place” as stated by the NEA.

In NEA director Fong Peng Keong’s response, he cited ‘insufficient evidence’ from recent studies of sub-daily or shorter PM2.5 exposure for the ‘development of a 1-hour PSI based on exposure to PM2.5 for a 1 hour period’. In 2013, Minister Grace Fu urged the public  to pay more attention to the 24 hour reading instead of the fluctuating 3-hourly average. Ng Eng Hen said giving 3 separate readings would ‘confuse’ the public. You’re talking about people who’re accustomed to dealing with all sorts of national health coverage schemes. So nope, we won’t be ‘confused’. We’re a smart nation. We voted the PAP back into power, for God’s sake.

The Government’s argument is that 24 hour readings are ‘backed by long-term epidemiological studies’, and are internationally accepted methods of assessing the health impact of air quality, but doesn’t explain whether these studies take into account tiny nations like ours when the 3 hour average can fluctuate from low 200’s in the afternoon and drop to 80 by late evening (like yesterday 3 Oct 2015, for example).

There was a time in 2006 when the NEA didn’t even promote 3 hourly readings, citing ‘unnecessary alarm‘ if these were published instead of the 24 hour readings. These days, you don’t even need to check the actual PSI to get ‘alarmed’ by the haze. Simply looking out of the window and taking a sniff would do (though the NEA later clarified that low visibility may not mean a high PSI). Or you could check out this ‘no bullshit PSI readings’ website if you really want to know what the one-hourly PSI is. But honestly, aside from statisticians and academics, how many of us actually care about the 24-hour PSI? Since 2006, we’ve complained that it has no practical use, and only serves as ‘post-mortem’ data for the good folks at NEA to crunch before the next haze comes around. It’s probably as useful a gauge as today’s weather if you’re wondering whether to bring the brolly out tomorrow. Even if you had exposed yourself to what’s considered a ‘very unhealthy’ 24 hour PSI for just one day, nobody will be able to tell you for certain your risk of getting lung or heart disease in 5 years.

There’s no reason why our top scientists in NEA would not be able to derive one-hour PSIs on the back of a napkin. So my guess is that they’re afraid of people overreacting to spot PSI levels and neglecting the supposedly more trustworthy 24 hour ones. Which means panic buying of N95 masks, people suddenly taking an interest in library books (to hide from the haze), conspiracy theories about cloud-seeding or hoaxers sending mass SMSes about fake holidays and office shutdowns. Oh wait, all that’s already happened, hourly PSI or not.

Amos Yee parody sketch cut from Chestnuts 50 show

From ‘MDA on cuts to Chestnuts 50: script was sent in late’, 20 Sep 15, article by Akshita Nanda, ST

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so “several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case” could not be processed in time. It was responding to writer-director Jonathan Lim’s sketch parody show showing at the Drama Centre Theatre until Sept 27.

Last Friday, the show ended with Lim saying his team was told just hours before the opening show a day earlier to remove about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by the case of teen blogger Amos Yee, or forfeit their arts entertainment licence.

…Speaking to Life, Lim says he was surprised by the reason MDA gave to cut the Yee sketch, since another segment referencing an ongoing court case was passed. The current Chestnuts 50 performance includes a part inspired by the City Harvest mega-church case, where its founder and five others are alleged to have misused church funds.

*Warning: spoilers ahead*

I was fortunate enough to catch Chestnuts’ second performance last Friday. When Jonathan Lim made his announcement near the finale about the last minute change requested by MDA, I wasn’t sure if it was yet another of the many ‘meta’ gags made at the MDA’s expense. It turned out that he was serious and the Amos Yee gag was snipped, which I was looking forward to based on what I saw in their teaser materials online. If MDA had also decided to tone down the fiery ‘bromance’ between LKY and Lim Chin Siong in another major sketch, it would be a case of Chestnuts being ‘roasted on an open fire’, and the only thing left watching would be Jonathan channeling Kit Chan in drag.

According to Lim’s Facebook page, MDA’s reason given then was that it was an ‘ongoing legal case’. As for the City Harvest sketch, the slightest of changes were made to characters’ names, but everything else about the plot was rib-ticklingly obvious. Even Mediacorp’s The Noose managed to get away with mocking Sun Ho’s music career. And they’re probably itching to do an Amos one too, pending MDA’s green light.

The question would be: Legal case, SO WHAT? Has a gag order been imposed like how the AGC told the public to ‘refrain from commenting’ about last year’s Thaipusam incident? Furthermore, it seems a different set of standards apply to social media, where it’s a Amos Yee lampoon free-for-all. Even Amos himself managed to get his Facebook posts updated while he was in remand. Then there’s this Tumblr blog about Amos’ fashion sense.

Not to mention Youtube. Here’s examples of Amos parody videos which MDA apparently decided is OK for general viewing, ongoing legal case or not.

MDA also beat their personal record of late notification. Last year they issued a NC-16 advisory and licence to the Dim Sum Dollies just 3 days before the opening show. In their press release, they said that conducted the script review ‘expeditiously’, claiming that they received the script on 1 Dec 2014, 10 days before opening. Not so lucky for Elangovan’s ‘Stoma’ though, which was banned completely.

To be fair, maybe the MDA is indeed overburdened by regulatory duties, though some would say they brought it upon themselves, having to nanny not just films, radio, plays, video games and books but political videos and ‘sociopolitical’ websites as well. A previous attempt to introduce a ‘self-regulation’ scheme for arts groups to classify their own productions turned out to be an abject failure. So this last-minute censorship and its excuses about late submissions is like the MDA giving the arts community a retaliatory shrug: “We gave you a chance to regulate ‘ownself’ and cut the red tape, but you didn’t want to, so this is what you get’.

Maybe there is still hope for the Amos Yee sketch if Chestnuts decides to launch an exclusive on Youtube instead. The show is otherwise still worth catching without Amos inside. Hopefully this piece of news doesn’t make the ‘gao lak’ experience a ‘gao wei’ one.

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